MARION COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — Three Horry County deputies testified Tuesday in the trial of Stephen Flood, the driver of a sheriff’s office van in which two mental health patients drowned during Hurricane Florence.
The three deputies testified about their jobs as members of the transportation unit and what happened on Sept. 18, 2018, from their perspectives.
Now-former Deputy Stephen Flood was one of two people charged in connection with the deaths of two mental health patients who died when the Horry County Sheriff’s Office van they were in became submerged in floodwaters that rose on Highway 76 in Marion County from Hurricane Florence.
12th Circuit Solicitor Ed Clements asked Deputy Tony Hayes about a discussion that happened inside the transportation office, where the day’s agenda is discussed. Hayes said he was just starting his shift when the discussion happened.
Hayes said himself, Flood, Deputy Joshua Bishop, and others were part of the discussion. Bishop, who officials say was in the passenger’s seat of the vehicle Flood was driving, is also charged in the case. He will be tried separately.
Hayes said he was not involved in part of the discussion about an upcoming transport that was about to happen.
Deputy Latifiah Witherspoon was also assigned to transportation duties with the sheriff’s office. She did a separate transport on the day of the drownings and was in a transport vehicle when she heard Flood and Bishop being called over the radio.
“I picked up my personal phone, I called Officer Bishop and let him know, hey, they’re calling you guys over the radio,” Witherspoon said. “He passed his phone to Officer Flood. I told Flood that they were calling you guys over the radio. And he told me ‘The radio was up underwater.'”
“I asked the supervisor, ‘do you want us to head that way because we’re right here’? And first, she said, ‘yes,’ then she said ‘no’ because you have a 95 in the back,” Witherspoon said. “And I was like, ‘you’re right.”
Witherspoon said Tuesday that ’95’ referred to the person she was transporting.
Clements asked Witherspoon what transport drivers are supposed to do when making transports and come up on blockades or road barricades.
“Not go through them,” Witherspoon said.
Both Flood and Bishop were terminated from the Sheriff’s Office in October 2018. They were indicted by a grand jury in 2019.
The county reached a settlement with the families of victims Wendy Haywood Newton and Nicolette Green, also known as Nicolette French, in early August.